Stop Depression & Anxiety: 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

Signs of Anxiety

Are you constantly asking yourself “Why am I depressed?” Maybe you’re swamped in signs of anxiety. Yikes! Perhaps you’re considering a serotonin drip (LOL). Nuts, you can’t figure out what’s going on. Could your thinking be the culprit?

Catastrophizing: Disaster is the expect. As soon as we catch-wind of a problem on come the ‘What if’s?’ And there are seemingly no limits to our fertile catastrophic imaginations.

A guy sees his dentist for a check-up. He tells him his teeth have been super-sensitive, and he’s been having headaches and jaw pain. The doc does the x-ray and exam thing, and tells the guy the cause of his symptoms is bruxism – a chronic clenching and grinding of teeth.

The guy is shocked, having no idea he’s been clenchin’ and grindin’. Uh, but he thinks it over, and he knows the diagnosis is correct. And now that he’s sure of the true cause of his misery, he can move-on to treatment – and relief.

So it is with depression and anxiety. We so often tolerate them, having no idea what’s at play. However, once we do our honest due diligence, roots are uncovered and intervention and relief can commence.

“Why Am I Depressed?” Signs of Anxiety: 15 Styles of Distorted Thinking

News flash! If we believe how and what we think don’t significantly contribute to our depression and anxiety, we’re naive.  I want you to carefully consider these styles of distorted thinking (aka cognitive distortions) and see if anything rings true…

  1. Filtering: Taking the negative details of a situation and magnifying them, while filtering-out the positives.
  2. Polarized Thinking: Black or white, good or bad. There’s little room for middle-ground here, as most everything is perceived in extremes.
  3. Overgeneralization: General conclusions are made based upon a single incident or piece of evidence. If something bad happens, we expect it to happen again and again.
  4. Mind Reading: Being sure we know what people are feeling, and why they act as they do – without them telling us. This especially applies to their feelings about us.
  5. Catastrophizing: Disaster is the expect. As soon as we catch-wind of a problem on come the “What if’s?” And there are seemingly no limits to our fertile catastrophic imaginations.
  6. Personalization: Everything that goes on around us is related to us – some kind of reaction to us. We’re constantly testing our value as a person by measuring ourselves against others.
  7. Control Fallacies: This is a distortion of our sense of power and control. If we feel externally controlled, we perceive ourselves as hopeless – a victim of fate. If we feel we’re internally controlled, we feel responsible for the feelings of others.
  8. Fallacy of Fairness: We become resentful as we believe we know what’s fair, but others don’t happen to agree. It’s a convenient and self-serving definition of fairness.
  9. Blaming: Holding others responsible for our pain – pure and simple.
  10. Shoulds: We have ironclad rules about how we – and others – “should” act. And when these rules are broken we get angry (when we break them we feel guilty).
  11. Emotional Reasoning: It’s an automatic that what we feel has to be true. If we feel – say – stupid or boring, we must be stupid or boring. If we feel guilty, we must have done something wrong.
  12. Fallacy of Change: Expecting others will change to suit our needs if we apply enough pressure. And this occurs because our hopes for happiness seem to entirely depend upon others.
  13. Global Labeling: Generalizing one or two qualities in ourselves and others into a negative global judgment – ignoring all contrary evidence.
  14. Being Right: Feeling as though we have to prove that our opinions and actions are correct. Actually, being wrong is unthinkable, and we’ll go to any lengths to demonstrate our rightness.
  15. Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: We expect all of our sacrifice and self-denial to pay-off (as if someone was really keeping score). And we feel bitter when the reward doesn’t come as expected.

Well, there you have ’em. Anything hit home? I’m kinda’ thinkin’ so. By the way, if you’ve identified with one or more of the above, doesn’t it feel at least somewhat comforting to know your style of thinking is recognized (even if it’s distorted)? It always helped me feel much less “psycho-freakish.”

Let’s Close

Signs of anxiety, “Why am I depressed?” Okay, I more than understand why one would first turn to serotonin and other neurotransmitters – meds – for relief. But I’ll stand by my belief that there’s so much more going on beneath the surface that generates our depression and anxiety. Hmmm, Styles of Distorted Thinking may be lurking about.

And now that you’re dialed-in, you can move-on to taking care of biz – just like our bruxism buddy.

Oh, almost forgot – here’s a piece I wrote some time ago on a remedy: cognitive restructuring. And another piece on cognitive distortions.

So many Chipur articles right at your very fingertips. Go ahead, have a look-see.

  • chipur January 15, 2014, 3:25 pm

    Here’s an idea. Why not print the article and keep it handy? It’ll help you track how you’re thinking so you can get a leg-up on intervention…

  • Cathy | Treatment Talk January 15, 2014, 4:38 pm

    This is a great list here, Bill. Blaming always come to my mind. It is so easy to blame others for our pain, rather that take responsibility.

    It is a good idea to print this list out, as it is definitely a reminder that is needed for all of us, even if we don’t have deep depression or anxiety. Take care.

    • chipur January 15, 2014, 7:13 pm

      Glad you stopped-on-by, Cathy. Always good to have you here. Thanks…

  • Lisa Frederiksen | BreakingThe January 15, 2014, 6:31 pm

    Woo hoo – love this post, Bill. “…do our honest due diligence.” I’m finally to the place where I do this at the first twinge of angst and it’s made the world of difference because I so often find I’m attaching present circumstances to an emotion that was routinely triggered in days of old. Numbers 1 and 5 were big hits for me!

    • chipur January 15, 2014, 7:24 pm

      Hey, Hey, Lisa – lovin’ this post is just fine by me. Pleased you did. You know, when I first wrote the piece I went with simply “due diligence.” Upon edit I decided to toss-in the “honest” qualifier. Seems to be a good fit. I like your technique – it’s so important to intervene just as soon as the angst hits. A good pause and reflection goes a looooong way. Thanks so much for continuing to visit and participate. You’re awesome…

  • Leslie Ferris January 15, 2014, 9:48 pm

    What a great list Bill. And I think we all do some of these distortions at least to some degree whether we are actually depressed or not. Number 1 – whoops – got me right away with that one!! The printing idea is a good one! I always learn something new from you Bill, as I have today.. Thanks.

    • chipur January 16, 2014, 10:05 am

      Hey, Leslie! I’m glad you came back and commented. Helpful lists are a good thing. And keeping them with us is important because we always have them in our back pockets for ongoing reference. How could we ever hope to feel better if we don’t know what’s going-on (and catch it before things snowball out of control)?
      Thanks, Leslie…

  • Beth Wilson January 16, 2014, 11:08 am

    Holy cow! But what if I enjoy feeling “psycho-freakish”? Just kidding, sort of. As I read through your list, each one felt familiar and I could relate. I too believe that changing our thinking changes our lives, although sometimes the fall-back position of overwhelm has me so frozen in place that it seems as if I’m moving a mountain. As one of my sponsors is fond of saying, “Sometimes we sit in our own poop (he uses the other word) because it’s warm.” Thanks for a great post, Bill. I’m moving on now to the remedy piece!

    • chipur January 16, 2014, 3:22 pm

      Well, you make a good point, Beth. I suppose there can be some perks to feeling “psycho-freakish.” Just depends on the psycho version. No doubt, changing our styles of thinking (patterns of thought) is difficult biz. I mean, first we have to identify what’s going on in our gray matter – and then comes the change process. As tough as it is, it can definitely be accomplished. It’s very much about going beyond our comfort zone – taking great courage and determination. Thanks for your visit and comment, Beth. Come on back, k?

  • Dr. Herby Bell January 18, 2014, 2:52 pm

    What does it mean when I scored 15/15?…Yikes, ‘n it nice to have a template to refer to when that stinkin’ thinkin’ takes over or worse, as you so clearly and categorically have taught me. Thanks, I needed that…again.

    Your excellent list reminds me of a similar list entitled, “Enemies of Learning” in Life Coaching circles. There’s that brain science again that we’re programmed for joy and health…question is…just what is the software we’re running?

    Thanks for Lighting up both of my hemispheres again, Bill White. Paying it forward.

    • chipur January 18, 2014, 5:58 pm

      Well, Herby ‘ole pal, ‘ole buddy – I think 15/15 means you’re just like millions of us floating about out thar’. And the fact that you “get it” will take you far, pilgrim.

      Did a search for “Enemies of Learning,” and wanted to post this link so readers can tune-in. Appreciate your mentioning it.

      Always happy to light up your hemispheres, boss – as mine light up when I hit your site. Let’s keep managing our software updates, k?

      Peace, Herby…